Guinevere Tries a New Kind of In-Vitro
by Dina Greenberg
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Guinn trails her slender fingers along the cistern’s crystal rim. The viscous fluid within pulses with light, purples like the bruises the injections raise on the pale flesh of her belly. She recalls how each cannula pierces her skin, mercurial burn, breath suspended, pain delivered with precision, month after month.
Still, against Dr. Mervin’s admonishments, she wants only one this time and knows beyond question the gravity of her choice. Each is brilliant. Golden and luminescent. How will she choose?
Mervin swivels on his stool—his back to her now. His fingers work the beads. Crystalline, they glide on their taut wires, click one against the other. The silken sleeves of Mervin’s robe quiver at his wrists.
The synodic period is 29.5305882 days, he murmurs. And of course we’ve got our sixteen moons. Eight phases for each.
The beads click. Mervin’s hands tremble, cerulean veins beneath skin translucent as papyrus. Guinn’s heart pounds in its human cage.
But if we account for the sidereal period—27.3217—then surely we must…
The wizened doctor seems lost in his calculations. His silence emboldens her. Guinn plunges her hand into the vat, cold steel of its outer shell gleaming. Mervin turns on his stool. He rises and spreads his arms wide as if to embrace her. As if to strike her down.
Like divining rods, Guinn’s fingers close around the orb. Gelatinous zygote, a female like the others. Yet this one pulses and crackles with light until Guinn’s fingertips burn. She swallows the egg whole, its salty taste a secret on her lips, then turns her green eyes to the security pad on the portal. Guinn blinks once and the bolts slide free.
Your Highness, Mervin calls, but he is too slow and she is gone.
Guinn grows round as another moon. When the infant is born, the women of Guinn’s court admire her delicate features—green eyes, lashes pale as corn silk, full lips identical to their own. They name her Cerridwen for she is imbued with magic. The women bow their heads as Guinn anoints her.
In the coming days and nights, each woman takes her turn suckling the baby. And in anticipation of Mervin’s demise—for he is the last of his sex and impotent in all but his powers of simple mathematics—Guinn scrapes a few cells from the inside of her baby’s cheek. She slides the invisible treasure from blade to vial and places the vial among the others.
Dina Greenberg’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Bellevue Literary Review, Gemini Magazine, The Warwick Review, Existere, No Extra Words, and Barely South, among others. Dina earned her MFA in fiction from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she served as managing editor for the literary journal Chautauqua. She leads creative writing workshops at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, NC. Visit www.dinagreenberg.com to learn more.